Headlines: December 12, 2018
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President Donald Trump and Democratic Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer had a tense and televised argument on Tuesday over funding for Trump’s border wall. The President has threatened to shut down the government, saying he would not sign a federal spending bill if it did not include at least $5 billion to build a border wall. But he appears to not have enough support among his own party’s members for the funding. During the awkward interaction, captured on camera, Trump repeatedly referred to future House Speaker Pelosi by her first name. Vice President Mike Pence was also present but remained silent.
Among the many wild claims that Trump made during the discussion, his assertion that authorities had “caught 10 terrorists“ crossing the border was made with no evidence. According to Reuters, “four government sources said there was no recent evidence of terrorism suspects being caught along the border.” In other words, the President lied. Again.
After the meeting Schumer and Pelosi spoke with press, emphasizing that Trump has taken responsibility for a shutdown if it happens. Pelosi is reported to have said privately, “It’s like a manhood thing for him. As if manhood could ever be associated with him. This wall thing.” An aide who was present in the room when she said those things shared them with Associated Press on condition of anonymity. She also apparently said, “It goes to show you: You get into a tickle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.” She also said, “I was trying to be the mom.”
Michael Cohen has just been sentenced to 3 years in prison over the crime of paying hush money to two women on Trump’s behalf who the President apparently had affairs with. Cohen, who was Trump’s personal lawyer bought the women’s silence ahead of the election but did not declare the payments as federal election campaign laws require. The judge in the case said that Cohen had committed a “smorgasbord” of crimes involving “deception” and motivated by “personal greed and ambition.” He added, “As a lawyer, Mr. Cohen should have known better.” Cohen had admitted to prosecutors that Trump directed him to make the payments. Trump denied making them and then admitted it but downplayed the illegality of the crimes.
President Trump on Tuesday in an interview with Reuters said that he was considering intervening in the Justice Department to order the freeing of Meng Wanzhou, the Chinese telecomm executive that Canada has arrested. Meng is the Chief Financial Officer of Huawei, a top Chinese telecomm equipment firm backed by the Chinese Government and is facing extradition to the US over alleged sanctions violations. But Trump said to Reuters that, “If I think it’s good for the country, if I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security – I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.” Chinese authorities are warning of a harsh response if Meng is not released. It would be the second time that Trump has intervened on behalf of a Chinese company. Earlier this year he pushed Congress to back off from penalties against ZTE. During the interview with Reuters Trump also falsely claimed that, “I just heard today that they’re buying tremendous amounts of soybeans. They are starting, just starting now.” There was no evidence of China doing this. In other words, the President lied. Again.
The US Senate on Tuesday passed an $867 billion Farm Bill 87 to 13. The bill does not have the steep cuts to food stamps that Republicans had been pushing for. Additionally it expands eligibility for farm subsidies to relatives of farmers such as cousins, nieces, and nephews. Senators cast the bill as necessary to provide economic stability during the volatile trade war that Trump began. The bill now heads to the House for a vote.
A new report by the Office of the Inspector General has found that the Trump administration gave millions of dollars to a private company to hire 7,500 new Border Patrol agents. The company, named Accenture, has hired only 2, 10 months into the job. It is a global management company based in Ireland and was granted a $297 million contract over five years. Over the months that the company helped hire 2 new agents, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has paid it $13.6 million. The report says CBP, “risks wasting millions of taxpayer dollars.”
Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday cast the first ever tie-breaking vote in the Senate to approve a Trump-appointed federal judge that even the American Bar Association called unqualified. Pence cast the historic vote for Jonathan Kobes to break the Senate tie of 50-50. The ABA has designated at least 5 Trump judicial nominees as unqualified. None of President Obama’s appointees were ever deemed unqualified.